WISCONSIN BADGERS (20-9)
at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (22-7)
Tip-off: Thursday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Michigan State -5, Total: 121
No. 10 Michigan State tries to end a three-game losing skid on Thursday night when it hosts No. 22 Wisconsin at the Breslin Center.
None of the Spartans' three straight defeats can be considered bad, as they suffered a 4-point loss versus No. 2 Indiana, fell by eight points at No. 14 Ohio State and lost by one point as a 5-point underdog at No. 7 Michigan on Sunday. The Badgers have won three of their past four games (SU and ATS), but are coming off a very bad loss at home to 14-point underdog Purdue on Senior Night on Sunday, as they were dominated on the glass (39-27) and fell by 13 points, 69-56. The Spartans have won four straight meetings (SU and ATS) with the Badgers and are 11-2 SU when hosting Wisconsin since 1998. These teams met on Jan. 22 in Madison in a game where both teams shot horribly (combined 33.7% FG) in a 49-47 MSU win.
Can Wisconsin hand Michigan State a fourth straight defeat on Thursday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary is red-hot with a 67% ATS mark (10-5) since Feb. 27 to improve to 55% ATS (97-80-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 73% ATS (8-3) since Feb. 28, and is now 52.0% ATS (154-142-5) for the season. And since Feb. 21, StatFox Brian is 59% ATS (13-9) when he wagers on non-BCS conference games.
Wisconsin plays a very patient, ball-control style of offense, scoring just 67.0 PPG (186th in nation) on 42.9% FG (199th in D-I), but committing just 9.4 TOPG (2nd-fewest in nation). These offensive numbers have been much worse in non-home games, where they score just 61.7 PPG on 39.5% FG. But the Badgers defense has been fierce over the past five games, allowing a paltry 52.6 PPG on 36.5% FG. For the season, Wisconsin gives up the ninth-fewest points in the nation (55.8 PPG) and holds teams to 39.4% shooting and 30.6% threes. Four players provide the bulk of scoring for this team, led by C Jared Berggren (11.6 PPG, 7.0 RPG) who knocks down 48% of his shots, but just 27% of his threes (19-for-71). He had nine points and nine boards in the Jan. 22 home loss to the Spartans but made just 3-of-10 shots (1-of-5 threes). Senior PF Ryan Evans (10.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG) pulled down 11 rebounds in that defeat to MSU, but was also ice-cold, making just 2-of-12 FG. He enters this game with 12.0 PPG and 7.0 RPG in his past two contests. Junior SG Ben Brust (11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG) snapped a seven-game, double-figure scoring streak with just eight points on Sunday, the same number he scored against the Spartans in January. Freshman PF Sam Dekker (9.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG) played just 13 minutes against MSU and scored three points, but he has given the team a great scoring boost during a current six-game streak of 10+ points, averaging 13.0 PPG on 59% FG during this stretch.
Like Wisconsin, Michigan State is not a team that wins with a fast-paced offense (69.2 PPG, 54.0 FGA per game), but it doesn't take many bad shots, connecting on 46.4% FG and 34.3% threes. The Spartans connect on just 5.0 threes per game, but they always give a maximum effort on the glass (+7.2 RPG margin) and their defense produces 8.1 steals per game. And also like the Badgers, MSU is one of the tougher teams to score on in the nation, as it allows a mere 59.8 PPG on 39.4% FG and 31.0% threes this season. Visitors to the Breslin Center have scored just 56.3 PPG on 35.9% FG this season. Junior PG Keith Appling (13.2 PPG, 3.8 APG) is a solid floor general with a 1.56 Ast/TO ratio and 1.4 SPG on the defensive end, but his offense has been lagging this season with 40.3% FG and 30.6% threes. His 5-for-23 shooting (0-for-9 threes) over the past three games is a big reason why Michigan State lost all three contests. Appling scored a game-high 19 points on 6-of-17 FG in Madison on Jan. 22 while grabbing six rebounds. Sophomore swingman Branden Dawson (10.1 PPG, 6.0 RPG) was the player of the game in that meeting with 18 points and 13 rebounds. But he has been horrible in his past four games, averaging only 5.5 PPG and 4.0 RPG. Junior PF Adreian Payne (10.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) has picked up some of Dawson's slack with 15.3 PPG (57% FG) and 12.0 RPG in the past four games. But he was a non-factor in the win over Wisconsin with two points and two rebounds in 33 foul-plagued minutes. Freshman SG Gary Harris (team-high 13.3 PPG) has also been on a scoring binge lately with 16.0 PPG on 51% FG during a five-game double-figure scoring streak. He took just three shots in 32 minutes in the January win over Wisconsin, but he will certainly be more aggressive with his offense this time around.